While modern agriculture is crucial for producing sufficient food to support human life on the planet, it actually accounts for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is a dramatic increase from 12% in 2019. In other words, modern farmers inadvertently contribute to climate change while they’re trying to feed the communities around them.

How does land use contribute to climate change?

Rearing livestock, applying fertilizers to crops and burning biomass fuel all produce greenhouse gases like methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. All these gases have negative effects on the environment. The outcomes are even worse if you participate in these activities without planting enough trees to act as carbon sinks. With proper management of land, your trees can absorb the excess carbon dioxide in the air and store it as carbon in the soil.

In a bid to reduce their carbon footprints, some farmers have turned to a different land management solution – hydroponics.

What is hydroponics and how does it work?

In simple terms, hydroponics is the growing of plants without using soil. Rather than growing plants in soil, farmers create nutrient-rich environments using materials like peat moss, clay pellets, perlite, and rockwool. If you’re considering using a hydroponic system to produce plants, there are six categories of different hydroponic systems to choose from.

1) Wick system 

The most straightforward setup is a wick system, named to highlight its functional resemblance to a candle wick. In a wick system, nutrients are pumped up to the growing media that holds the plants via a string from a water reservoir. This method is popular among home gardeners who want to experiment with hydroponics. Larger plants, however, will not benefit from this method because a string cannot deliver enough water. In addition, a poor setup or the wrong material selection can be harmful to the plants.

2) Deep water culture system 

This approach, also known as the Kratky Method, involves planting plants in pots on top of a floating holder, with the roots in the growing media. It reduces waste by recirculating water and is both economical and low-maintenance. This strategy, however, is not suitable for huge plants or plants with long growing periods because they must be light enough to be supported by the floating raft.

3) Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) System 

Many vertical farms, which are planted skyscrapers, use this technology. Thousands of square feet of hydroponic growing systems can be found in this type of farm. NFT is also the most commonly used type of hydroponic farm in homes, labs, and businesses. It works using a slightly downward-facing tube to allow continuous nutrient flow to the plant and back to the reservoir. This design has two benefits: it eliminates the need for a timer because the pump runs continuously, giving you one less item to set up (however, this could be problematic in a power outage). It also eliminates the requirement for a growth medium. However, it requires a little more upkeep because growers must ensure that the plant roots do not block the system. You also have to check the pump regularly to ensure that the plants are getting enough nutrients.

4) Ebb and flow system 

This system regulates the flow of nutrients from the reservoir to the growth tray by using a pump on a timer. After the nutrients have completely covered the plant roots, they drain back into the reservoir. This method may be tailored to the farmer’s demands, and it efficiently uses water and energy, but it does require a large volume of growing media.

5) Drip system 

In a drip system, a timer controls when the nutrient solution is fed through a series of drip pipes to supply tiny drops of water to the plants in this system. This system is low-cost and provides farmers with more flexibility over their schedule. However, it’s definitely overkill for a small backyard garden because it will waste a lot of water.

6) Aeroponics 

Aeroponics appears to be one of the most challenging hydroponics systems to master. There is no need for a growing medium because the plants are floating in the air. A timer also controls a spray system that delivers nutrients to the roots on a regular basis. As a result, this arrangement exposes the roots to more oxygen.

7) Aquaponics 

Aquaponics combines fish and – occasionally – other aquatic animals such as snails, prawns, and crayfish, with crops in a symbiotic system. Plants filter waste materials that are toxic to fish in high concentrations out of the system and use them for their own sustenance. While fish farming is frequently harmful to the environment, not all fish farms are the same. Aquaponic farms are unique in that they mix fish farming and hydroponics to create what has the potential to be a more sustainable system in which each component benefits the whole.

Aquaponic farming has numerous benefits to both communities and the environment. For starters, it requires less water than normal farming. It also creates a controlled environment that allows farmers to produce food 365 days a year, maintaining high yield through the harshest winters. Ultimately, aquaponic farming systems create a higher yield than traditional farming methods.

Despite the numerous benefits of aquaponics, farmers who want to grow successful operations need several tools as well as access to resources and thought leaders in the field. It’s not always easy to access these things, and failure to do so can lead to an aquaponic farm with lots of potential crashing.

10 years of serving developing communities in the Middle East helped Jonathan Reyes and Daniel Robards realize how lack of information and resources was impacting these communities. This understanding inspired them to launch Aquaponics AI, a platform designed to help aquaponic farmers to grow their operations, manage their teams, perform calculations and integrate their sensors. This platform offers free resources including crop libraries, app alerts and best practices, all of which farmers need to run their operations efficiently.

Jonathan and Daniel built Aquaponics AI to be available in a variety of local languages so that it could be accessible to several communities across the world. At the moment, the platform offers resources in 10 different languages and is available in over 20 countries.

Are you an aquaponic farmer who could benefit from this platform? For more information about Aquaponics AI, click here.